I know an excellent way to travel. Go somewhere, find some friends there, and then go somewhere else with them, where they will take you. During my months in Wallis, I shared a house with Pamela and Gaston, a young couple from the neighboring island of Futuna who also worked at the mission where I often went. Not surprisingly, we spent a lot of time together and had a lot of fun. Pamela carefully tried to teach me her mother tongue, so I somehow learned Wallisian and Futunan at the same time. Thanks to Pamela, my Futunan dictionary was born, which I then developed with the help of other people … and still I am not able to say which of the two languages I like more. Well … friendship begets friendship. For me, noth Pamela and Gaston were friends and not just another “locals” … and for them, I was always “Tominiko” and not just another “papalagi”. And that is really appreciated.
Then came the holidays and the children from the missionary boarding school returned home, mostly to Futuna. Pamela and Gaston flew with them to their families, but they offered me to come and see their place. So, just after Christmas 2008, I took a tiny twin-engine Twin Otter plane and flew to Futuna for a month. I stayed mostly in Taoa and Kaleveleve with Pamela’s family. Sometimes we would go with Gaston to fish with throw nets, other days we would go with Pamela to look for edible clams in the sand of Tufulega beach. In the evening we played volleyball with other young people from the village. Twice I walked around the island to the tomb of St. Peter Chanel, the first martyr of Oceania and “the man with the best heart” as the Futunan say. I ate with the king of the island as well as with the humblest fisherman, I repaired computers and worked with others in the fields, I ate raw fish and breadfruit and “pekepeke” … and I was completely happy.
In Futuna I put down roots as deep as in Wallis. I know that when I go back there one day, the island will look very different, but it does not matter so much. Things are not important… people are.